First thing Monday morning, we had a meeting up here at D Magazine headquarters. The topic of discussion: how were we going to cover the Amber Guyger murder trial? Or should we even cover it? Between web and print, we have six people out of a total of 11 editorial folks who could tackle this thing. We run lean. And all but two of those six are about to be consumed with a production deadline for the November issue of D. Should we dedicate a person to covering a trial that will likely last two weeks? Could we afford to hire a freelancer to do it? And if we decided to cover the trial, could we offer something that the other local and national media outlets won’t?
After a short talk, we decided to sit this one out, at least on the daily beat, and I’m glad we did. Because seeing the Morning News’ depth of coverage, I know we could have brought precious little to the table. Their team is doing an amazing job. They’ve got three reporters at the courthouse: Jennifer Emily, LaVendrick Smith, and Dana Branham. They are filing updates throughout the day and writing recaps that not only relay the facts but capture the drama and pain of the proceedings. This detail from yesterday’s story really got me:
Jean’s father, Bertrum Jean, looked away, toward the courtroom wall. At one point, he put his hands over his ears to block out the sound of officers desperately trying to revive his son. He pressed his forehead against the wall.
A family friend patted his shoulder as he glanced up at the video before quickly looking away. Allison Jean slumped forward in her seat, her head bowed.
Prosecutor LaQuita Long sat on the court bench in front of the couple, whispering to them as the video played.
When the video stopped, the Jeans stood. Allison Jean looked anguished, and tears fell from her face as she and her husband walked out of the courtroom.
For the next several minutes, every time the courtroom door opened, a low wail could be heard from the hallway.
News photographer Tom Fox caught the image. It’s heart-rending.
The News is also producing short audio reports that detail what happens each day. They include sound clips from the courtroom and are voiced by Emily. I’m not sure how she pulls it off. All this work — done so quickly and so well — shows what a robust newsroom means to a city. The News is serving Dallas (and the nation) admirably.
Which brings me to my one quibble. You knew I wasn’t going to close without quibbling. The image you see above of today’s front page confounds me. I know there’s big national news. I get it. But I also know that I can get it from a thousand other outlets. I think the Trump and Guyger stories should have been flipped, with Guyger getting the bigger play. The folks at the paper like to point out that local journalism matters. I agree.